No water, just pipe dreams

No water, just pipe dreams

No water, just pipe dreams

For many people in the national capital, piped water is still a distant dream and summers are a nightmare. In several unauthorised localities, they rely on water tankers as Delhi Jal Board pipelines are yet to reach there

Half my life has gone into waiting for water tankers and fearing what if the water we have stored is not enough,” says Rekha Sharma, a resident of G block of Deoli in southwest Delhi.

Sharma came to Delhi 15 years ago from her village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand after she got married here. Since then, water shortages have been a part of her life.

She had hoped that the situation will change after Aam Aadmi Party came to power in Delhi in 2015. But almost one and a half years later, her routine of waiting for water tankers, fighting over them once they arrive, and filling as much as possible in one go, has remained the same.

Plastic containers kept outside houses dot many streets in this locality. “The government collected Rs 1,500 from us two-three months back saying that water from Sonia Vihar pipeline will be provided to us, but that has not happened yet,” says Sharma.

The residents here rely on illegal bore wells or private tankers which charge a hefty amount for a few litres of water. This is for non-drinking purposes and they buy drinking water separately. Families here spend at least Rs 1,000-1,500 every 10 days on water. And their struggle for water worsens in months like May and June when temperatures soar.

Tanker trouble

Even though the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) procured 250 new tankers this summer, increasing the figure for water deficit areas to more than 1,000, the people here complain that tankers take days to come and are only available in some blocks.“People get into fights if residents of other blocks go with their containers to fill water,” says Sharma.

Another resident, Brijpal Upadhyaya of L block, alleges that the government tankers are “controlled” by local AAP volunteers who take money and mostly provide water to their loyalists.

“So we are only left with the option of private tankers. Even the government tube wells have dried up,” says Brijpal, an autorickshaw driver.

Summer is a bad time. While the DJB claims it has increased its water supply from 900 million gallons per day (MGD) to 950 MGD in the city, last month saw many protests over shortage of water, mainly in south and southwest Delhi, which include Sangam Vihar, Ayanagar, Govindpuri and Khirki Extension.

In Sangam Vihar, near Deoli, posters on the wall claim Aam Aadmi Party’s achievements in supplying water to the area. The situation on the ground is different.

The work of supplying piped water started last July but so far only a few blocks have been covered.

“Very few people have started receiving water but since nobody has a metered connection, they keep the taps open all day and don’t share,” says another resident, who did not wish to be identified.

DJB vice chairman Dinesh Mohaniya, who is also the MLA from the Sangam Vihar constituency, claims that the piped network has covered 65 per cent of people in the area till now and only areas at the tail end of the colony are facing the problem.

His claim is backed by some residents who say that water has finally reached their houses after pipelines were laid.  But there is still a large chunk which is still waiting for its share.

“Only people at the tail end of the distribution network are not being able to benefit from the work done by the government. We are working on it and the whole area will be covered by pipelines soon,” Mohaniya says.

The government has set a target of laying pipelines in 300 unauthorised colonies the city in the current year. The present demand for water in the capital stands at 1,150 million gallons per day (MGD), while the supply is about 900 MGD.

“The DJB is also supplying groundwater in some places where there is no piped network. One way or the other, the citizens are availing water through the DJB,” he says.

Little change

But even people from unauthorised colonies in central Delhi say that nothing much has changed for them in terms of water availability in this one and a half years.

“Every few days water doesn’t come and we have to purchase it from outside. Even when it comes, we only get half an hour of supply,” says Padma Thapa, who lives in Punjabi Basti in west Delhi.

To its credit, the government laid a record 217 pipelines in unauthorised colonies last year. It has also started working on plans to improve the resources of water in the capital and bridge the supply-demand gap.

Tapping elsewhere

Recently, Water Minister Kapil Mishra announced that the Jal Board has decided to tap water that seeps into the Yamuna floodplain between Palla and Wazirabad during monsoon, using 105 tube wells and five ranney wells.

Called the ‘Conserve and Use’ floodplain water harvesting project, it has already generated an extra 10 million gallons per day (MGD). By the end of the year, there will be a total of 60 MGD of extra water. The government claims that with it, there will be a month’s backup of water in the city, which will be used in times of crisis.

While this is a welcome move, other conservation steps like boosting rainwater harvesting have not evoked much enthusiasm in the public.

Despite an existing regulation which makes it mandatory for buildings above 500 square metres to have rainwater harvesting structures, only few have built them.

Notices are sent and sometimes penalties levied, but nothing after that. Even government buildings which should show the way for rainwater harvesting – said to be one of the cheapest and easiest ways of boosting water supply – have not installed provisions for it.

Similarly, the capital has not been able to maintain its lakes, stepwells (baolis) or other water bodies meant for storing water. Delhi’s water bodies are dirty, full of algae and near dead.

On Thursday, the government constituted a high-level committee to look into the matters related to water bodies in the national capital. Public and Works Department Minister Satyendar Jain will head the panel, will look into issues ranging from the identification of water bodies to their restoration.

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